Foodie Friday this week is peanuts. Well, all about peanuts anyway. Keegan Treadaway is on the marketing team for the National Peanut Board (NPB), the group that represents peanut farmers around America. They're doing wonderful work around the marketing of peanuts but also working with farmers around sustainability of their farms, and helping those with peanut sensitivities and allergies. He has an interesting job and a fun personality.
What is your role in the food industry?
I am a marketing associate for the National Peanut Board. I work on behalf of U.S. peanut farmers to promote peanuts and peanut products, and communicate information about peanut nutrition, sustainability and peanut allergies to a variety of influencers—from health experts to foodservice professionals.
How did you first get involved in the food industry?
I started working with the NPB as an administrative coordinator in 2012, and joined the marketing team in 2015. Prior to that, I managed a restaurant while in college, and my first job was in high school working at a grocery store at the age of 15. You can say that I’ve been involved in some facet of the food industry my entire working life.
What/who inspired your current role in the food industry?
My love of peanuts/peanut butter certainly piqued my interest when applying for the National Peanut Board. Aside from that, I have a degree in political science. Since NPB is governed by USDA, it was the perfect fit working to make sure that we are in compliance with government oversight. I was also motivated by the opportunity to get into marketing for something that I love—peanut butter!
What food trends are most influential in what you do?
Global cuisines are definitely a big influence for me. It’s amazing tasting new dishes from different parts of the world, and seeing how those dishes take off as the next big food trend. Food is a gateway into learning about other cultures, so global food trends open doors to different parts of the world that I probably wouldn’t have known about otherwise. I especially love cultural comfort foods and street foods.
Who would have thought that something as exotic sounding as larb, a Laotian dish, would be featured in a prominent magazine like Bon Appetit. But once you look at the ingredients and preparation, it’s so easy to make (and Bon Appetit has a version with peanuts) and it’s so flavorful and delicious! It’s one of those cultural comfort foods that could be a weeknight mainstay at any family dinner in any part of the world, which is really cool.
What is the most significant change you’ve witnessed in the food industry?
Consumers—and by extension, restaurants and chefs—are driving food production. As a society we are increasingly mindful about eating foods that align with our interests. Think sustainable, locally-sourced, and healthy ingredients that consumers increasingly demand in their markets and at restaurants. These type of ingredients weren’t even a factor in production agriculture a few years ago. For decades, agricultural production was based on efficiency.
Today, it is increasingly based on being able to checkoff all the boxes that matter to consumers. Demand for responsible ingredients is forcing changes in the way crops and livestock are produced. When’s the last time you bought eggs that weren’t cage-free? While these changes may be good for the environment and animal well-being, they pose huge challenges and economic obstacles for agriculture producers.
If there is a silver lining, it’s that increased demand for these responsible ingredients is leading to positive new innovations like marker-assisted breading, and opening up market opportunities for previously unheard of, unused, and even undesirable commodities (think ugly fruit and sea grass). Still, the fact that these changes in agriculture are being driven by consumers and chefs is pretty astounding.
What keeps you going as a food professional?
To me, food is not just a source of energy. It is an experience. I feel like my daily routine revolves around food. I will go out of my way to have a meal that I enjoy instead of just consuming something that will sustain me. Being able to incorporate that food-centric passion into my career is what keeps me going as a food professional.
What’s your favorite food to make at home?
Soups and stews. They are the perfect vehicle for using up items in the pantry, and they can be especially flavorful. Also, they are easy to make and don’t require a lot of precision.
What’s your favorite meal to order in a restaurant?
A meat and two to three vegetables; and if it’s on the menu I’ll usually get meatloaf. I’m adventurous when it comes to food, and will try just about anything. But I’m a sucker for comfort food and I will usually let the supporting characters on the plate (the sides) determine what I order. In fact, even if the item in the center of the plate doesn’t sound all that great, I’ll still order the dish if the sides sound delicious.
Name the food/ingredient you can’t live without.
What food or ingredient would you never use or eat?
Mayonnaise. I won’t even keep it in my fridge.
What cookbooks or cooking classes are most important to you and why?
While it is not a cookbook, per se, the New York Times Cooking section is my go-to for recipe ideas, and answers to cooking questions. It is a reliable resource for information that I would have a hard time in the kitchen doing without.
Connect with Keegan
Facebook: National Peanut Board